Late TD pass lifts Spartans past San Diego State

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Late TD pass lifts Spartans past San Diego State

Number-wise, the SJSU football team should not have been competing for a win in the fourth quarter of Saturdays game against San Diego State. The Spartans, however, outscored the Aztecs 21-10 in the fourth to put a huge road win in its cap despite being outgained by 117 yards in the game. A touchdown pass from junior David Fales to junior wide receiver Chandler Jones with 50 seconds left in the game forced the lead to change hands for the fifth time in the fourth quarter and sealed the 34-31 SJSU victory, the first in San Diego in 60 years.
I cant say enough about how hard our kids played and how hard San Diego States kids played, SJSU head coach Mike MacIntyre said following the teams thrilling fourth-quarter victory. It was one of those games when both teams fought and fought and fought. It was an exciting game to watch and Im glad we came out on top but I tip my cap to how hard San Diego State fought and how well theyre coached.The fourth quarter began with the score at 24-17 in favor of San Diego State. Then began the offensive explosion by both teams. Just more than thirty seconds into the final quarter, Fales found junior wide receiver Noel Grigsby for a 21-yard touchdown to tie the score at 24. San Diego State reclaimed the lead with a 41-yard field goal by place kicker Chance Marden but then gave it up on SJSUs next drive on a 15-yard touchdown pass by Fales, this time to a senior tight end Ryan Otten, who had a 30-yard radius around him in the end zone without an Aztec in sight. One minute and two seconds before SJSUs eventual game-winning drive commenced, San Diego State began a drive that ended with the Aztecs believing they had just put together a game-winning drive of their own. San Diego State found the end zone with a four-play, 71 yard drive that was finished by a 40-yard touchdown pass from senior Ryan Katz to junior wide receiver Colin Lockett.This left 2:24 in the game, apparently giving plenty of time for SJSU to mount its final comeback to vault its record to 3-1.We knew what we could do, Fales said about the final quarter of play that saw so many lead changes. We said there was no other option but go down there and score and we did it both times. The Spartans were hurt badly throughout the game and especially in the second half by a prolific San Diego State running game. The Aztecs outgained the Spartans on the ground 271-77. They are slippery, theres just something about them that made them hard to bring down, said senior defensive end Travis Johnson. They got a play and we kept fighting, our defense kept coming out and stopping them and thats how we win games.Fales, who has been the teams most valuable offensive player this season, was 4-of-9 passing for just 28 yards in the first half. He turned in a 17-for-22 passing performance for 232 yards in the second half and completed his last 10 passes sprinkled through two come-from-behind drives. We just didnt have any rhythm going into any our drives, Fales said about the offenses first-half performance. We went back to making it simple, getting back to basics and getting some confidence.MacIntyre said adjustments made at halftime allowed Fales to get back into the rhythm he had been looking for in the first half.We were able to pick up their pressure, that was number one, MacIntyre said. The receivers were able to run great routes and boy can they catch.Both teams took an decent amount of time to get their offenses going. Each team punted twice on their first two possessions, but SJSU came up with a break on its second punt. Junior cornerback Damon Ogurn came up with a strip of San Diego State punt returner Tim Vizzi, who fumbled the ball and turned it over to freshman defensive end Tony Popovich. SJSU capitalized on the turnover but not to its fullest potential by converting a field goal to end a drive that began on San Diego States 28 yard line. The career-long 43-yard field goal by freshman kicker Austin Lopez opened the games scoring at the 4:01 mark in the first quarter. Trying to put points on the scoreboard, San Diego State ended a 36-yard drive with a fumble by Kazee at the SJSU 47 yard line. The Spartans looked to score on its second drive in a row and looked on its way to doing so after junior Blake Jurich connected with junior Chandler Jones on a 30-yard pass play. Two plays later, however, SJSU coughed up the ball up right back to the Aztecs after a fumble by senior fullback Ina Liaina on a 3rd and 1 play. Three plays after the fumble by Liaina, San Diego State found the end zone for the first time by either team with a huge 83-yard touchdown run by Muema. He shook at least two tackles at the line and was almost tripped up but stayed on his feet and went untouched after breaking through the line of scrimmage. Needing to respond to keep up with San Diego States momentum after the long touchdown run by Muema, SJSU broke through with a show-stopper of its own. Sophomore Tyler Ervin brought the ensuing kickoff back 97 yards, cutting and shedding a few tackles before finally riding the sideline to the house. The kickoff return was the eighth-longest kickoff return in SJSU history.Great blocks formed up and I just ran, Ervin said. We worked on it in practice. I made the cut, saw it was wide open so I just took it to the house.Down by three for the second time in the game, San Diego State took over on its own 25 yard line after a touchback and began a methodical drive to give itself the lead once again. An 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by an eight-yard touchdown run by Kazee to give the Aztecs a 14-10 lead. Liaina made up for the fumble earlier by catching a one-yard touchdown pass from Fales. A field goal by Marden, the first of his career, tied the score at 17 apiece going into half time. MacIntyre said Saturday was an incredible win for the program. We have a lot of character in our program from our athletic director to our president on down to everyone who had worked with our association, he said. They all care about this place. Its a unique place and these kids are believing in it. Big deal today, a whole program win.

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

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AP

Local college players turn heads at respective Pro Days

Last week both Stanford and Cal held “Pro Day,” an annual showcase where each school’s departing players audition for NFL scouts. 

To those unfamiliar with Pro Days, these events typically feature lots of men with stopwatches, a few TV news crews, and a group of players running 40-yard dashes, cone drills and 20-yard shuttles. The objective is to give NFL teams an opportunity to evaluate prospects up close and personal.

Since 1982, the top 300 or so prospects in the country have been invited each year to the NFL Scouting Combine, a centralized evaluation for all pro teams. Subsequent Pro Days held by individual schools provide a stage for players who weren’t invited to the combine. They also offer participants a chance to improve their combine performance or give interested teams another look.

At Cal’s Pro Day on Friday, Khalfani Muhammad turned a lot of heads with a 4.35 40-yard dash, faster than any running back recorded at the combine earlier this month. In fact, Muhammad’s time would have tied for fourth best overall. Wide receiver Chad Hansen also impressed with a 4.45 in the driving rain. Quarterback Davis Webb, who had some accuracy issues at the combine, had a good outing despite throwing a wet ball for much of the day. His predecessor, Jared Goff, was the No. 1 pick in last year’s NFL draft.

Stanford’s “Pro Timing Day” on Thursday attracted a lot of attention because of the presence of two projected first round draft picks — running back Christian McCaffrey and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas. Over 40 NFL representatives were on hand, including 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and Carolina Panthers head man Ron Rivera. Several sportswriters and local TV anchors covered the proceedings, which were also streamed live on ESPN3.

It was a far cry from the pre-Jim Harbaugh and David Shaw days, when Stanford had few pro prospects and Pro Days drew sparse turnouts. However, 31 Stanford players have been drafted in the last seven years, including four in the first round and six in the second. McCaffrey and Solomon will boost those numbers.

McCaffrey has been the Cardinal’s marquee player for the past two seasons. He set an NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards in 2015, finishing second in the Heisman Trophy balloting, and then rushed for 1,639 yards in ’16. Thomas had 25 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in the last two seasons and was named the Pac-12’s defensive lineman of the year last fall.

Surprisingly, most pundits now believe Thomas will go higher than McCaffrey in the draft. McCaffrey is currently projected to go middle or late first round. Thomas is expected to go in the top five. In fact, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper now has Thomas being taken with the No. 2 pick in the draft by that team down the road in Santa Clara.

NFL teams are split as to whether McCaffrey can be an every down back. Some see him as more of a complimentary, third-down type. At the combine, he excelled in the 40-yard dash (4.48), vertical jump (37.5”), cone drill (6.57) and both 20 and 60-yard shuttles (4.22 and 11.03), but did only 10 reps in the bench press. His overall rating at the combine was 5.99 (out of a possible 8.0). At Pro Day on Thursday, he put on a brilliant display in a number of receiving drills, showing off the versatility that many teams crave.

Thomas was one of the top performers at the combine, registering a 4.69 40, 30 reps in the bench press, a 126” broad jump, 6.95 cone drill and 4.28 shuttle. His overall rating was 6.85. On Pro Day, he did a number of position specific drills.

Unlike McCaffrey, who elected to skip the Cardinal’s post-season game, Thomas played in the Sun Bowl and elevated his pro stock with several game-changing plays. The NFL’s post-combine analysis noted: “Thomas' bowl performance against North Carolina opened a lot of eyes, as he was all over the field in the Cardinal's win in a way that isn't even reflected in an impressive stat line (seven tackles, two for loss, sack).”

According to one NFL observer at Pro Day, “In the bowl game, Thomas went from the second round to maybe the second pick in the draft.”

Stanford coach David Shaw, understandably, is a huge fan of both players. He chafes at the suggestion McCaffrey can’t be an every down back.

“People may not want to talk about it, but race is a component in that discussion,” he told me at Pro Day. “Some teams want to put Christian in a box. ‘He’s a white running back, another Danny Woodhead.’ Well, he’s not. If you look at the film, what he did at the combine, and here today, he’s more of a Reggie Bush or a Ladainian Tomlinson. He’s a difference maker.”

Shaw also marveled at Thomas’s rise up the draft boards since his Sun Bowl performance.

“That’s the beauty of bowl games,” Shaw said. “What might seem meaningless to one guy can make 10 million dollars for another.”

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

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USATSI

Stanford rallies to beat Notre Dame, punches ticket to Final Four

BOX SCORE

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Alanna Smith's jumper with 23 seconds left capped Stanford's rally from a 16-point deficit in the second half, Erica McCall blocked a last-second shot and the Cardinal edged top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 Sunday to reach its first Final Four since 2014.

Brittany McPhee scored 27 as the second-seeded Cardinal (32-5) won its eighth in a row overall. This was the third straight year Stanford and Notre Dame have met in the NCAA Tournament, with the Cardinal winning twice.

Down 47-31 in the third quarter, Stanford surged to end Notre Dame's 17-game winning streak. The Irish (33-4) had a final shot, but McCall blocked Arike Ogunbowale's drive near the basket.

The win in the Lexington Regional gives Stanford a chance to pursue its third national championship under coach Tara VanDerveer.

Among those in the crowd at Rupp Arena was Jon Samuelson, whose daughter, Karlie, scored 15 for Stanford. A day earlier, he was at the Bridgeport Regional to see another daughter, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson, help the Huskies win their 110th straight game.

Smith finished with 15 points.

Ogunbowale had 25 and Marina Mabrey 20 for Notre Dame, which had sought its sixth Final Four in seven seasons.

After driving for a basket with 51 seconds left, Smith added her biggest shot for the go-ahead score. Stanford then denied Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen and Ogunbowale on successive attempts in the final 15 seconds to spark a wild celebration.

THE BIG PICTURE:
Stanford once again proved no deficit was too big to overcome. The Cardinal shot 12 of 26 on 3-pointers, Samuelson and McPhee each making five. Not bad, considering Stanford shot 2 of 15 overall in the second quarter while getting outscored 23-7. ... McCall had 15 rebounds.

Notre Dame seemed to do everything right for most of the game but couldn't stop Stanford's perimeter game in the second half. The Irish also made just 11 of 31 shots after halftime and were topped 33-32 on the boards.

UP NEXT:
Stanford faces the South Carolina-Florida State winner in the Final Four in Dallas next weekend.